ALEX SOLLEY CLOSES GAP WITH RACE ONE WIN
Alex Solley has moved back into second spot in the Vertu Motors MINI CHALLENGE Trophy standings after scoring his fourth win of the season in race one at Donington Park.
Solley had qualified in third place at the wheel of his Graves Motorsport-run car behind title rival Tom Ovenden and Max Hall, but was able to jump immediately into second spot when the lights went out after Hall was slow away from the line.
Ovenden and Solley would immediately start to edge away from the fight for third place, with the pair gradually opening up a lead at the front in what would quickly become a two-way battle for the race win.
Solley would see his chance to make a move for the lead on the fourth lap as the pair headed into the Melbourne Hairpin, sliding ahead to secure his place at the head of the pack and holding Ovenden at bay until the closing stages when the championship leader came back at him.
Ovenden had hoped to be able to launch a bid to reclaim the lead when he closed back into the rear of Solley’s car but a yellow flag due to the stranded car of Callum Eason would prevent him from making a move as Solley held on to grab the win – scoring the extra six points for fastest lap as an added bonus.
“We knew we had the pace after qualifying and expected to be near the sharp end,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Tom and it was nice to be able to race away with him at the front, and we had a good battle.
“I was able to make a clean move for the lead and then held him off, and hopefully we can do similar tomorrow.”
The main battle throughout the race would be on the battle for third spot, which was initially headed by Jack Byrne before he lost out in a three-way fight into the hairpin that saw him attacked on both sides by Nathan Edwards and Rhys Hurd.
Edwards would emerge from that move having moved into a podium spot ahead of Hurd, but would then face huge pressure from a train of cars behind with Hurd making countless moves to try and get ahead before finally getting ahead on eight.
Within a lap however, Edwards had reclaimed the place on the run up to McLeans and looked set to score the final place on the podium until the final lap when Hurd made his move on the Melbourne Loop to grab the position – giving the Chandler Motorsport man a second top three finish of the campaign and the Rookie Cup win.
“That was hard work and there were about six of us in a train from lap four,” he said. “I managed to get ahead of Nathan but then he retook the place, and on the last lap he made a little bit of an error and I was able to get third.
“That was a stressful race and if you end up back in fifth or sixth then it’s not too much fun – but coming away in third means I’m happy with it!”
Edwards was left to settle for fourth place ahead of Alex Keens, who enjoyed arguably his strongest race in the series so far to run with the podium battle throughout.
Keens would climb as high as fourth when he briefly got ahead of Hurd in the closing stages as they tried to find a way ahead of Edwards, with Nicky Taylor grabbing sixth place having fought his way through from ninth on the grid.
Taylor secured his place with a late move on Lee Pearce, who would then take a trip across the grass on the final lap when he clashed with Harry Hickton coming onto the start-finish straight.
Hickton was able to continue to cross the line in seventh ahead of Byrne, with James Black and a recovering Pearce then rounding out the top ten.
After his front row start, Hall would end back in 15th place, not helped by a clash with Ben Jenkins at the chicane that cost him multiple places. Series debutant Tommy Gilham scored a 17th place finish on his first race in the series.